How do you get to paradise?
Oblivion, Chapter 8
Welcome to Oblivion, a utopian novel I’m publishing with commentary imagining a more beautiful future. If you’re new here, you can start at the beginning, start right here, or get caught up with the Index.
Quick recap: Elysia finds herself on Fenghu, isle of the immortals, with no recollection of her past and a painting of the island in her pocket. But she remembers something about the painting and perhaps even how she got here.
composed a beautiful musical score for this chapter. I hope you enjoy this meditation as you read.
I swam beneath the waterfall and emerged in a tranquil pool carved into a white marble courtyard, a cherry tree sprawling through its open roof.
It was quiet, the waterfall pouring down one wall, flowers drifting idly in its current, and clouds that moved through it all like a mist, dripping magic on us as we bathed in that beautiful monastery.
I looked at Taka, his dark hair tousled with wet curls. “You said you remember the painting,” he said, catching my eyes. “What do you remember?”
The clouds seeped in, a river of deep purple sunset pouring into the courtyard. I could no longer tell my imagination from my reality as I watched golden koi swim through the sky, the clouds sparkling in their wake.
“This might sound strange,” I hesitated. “But I think I dreamt about it as a child. I must have forgotten about it when the beauty of childhood faded for I remember feeling adrift, unmoored in my adulthood, devoid of magic. It was as though I had lost that place and had spent my life in search of it.
“And then one day I saw it. I was at a museum and the sun must have caught it just right for it gleamed gold. I was drawn to it—the tranquil islands, the lush gardens, the deep seas, a wise and beautiful people, a place so contented. I could hear every note of that place as if plucked from my childhood dream, a song I once knew but hadn’t sung in years, had all but forgotten.”
“It was so beautiful. It wasn’t enough to see the painting with my eyes, I wanted to be consumed by it. To be touched by every whim of the wildflowers, to fill my breath with every sigh of the wind, to feel the feathers of passing cranes against my skin, to drink the stars from the sky and savor the sea upon my tongue. To sink into oblivion.
“I must have stared at it for hours, perhaps I had even fallen asleep for when I reached out to touch it, it as as though I awoke in a daydream. Suddenly the sea was pouring in through the windows and toppling down the stairs. The waves reached my toes, my thighs, and there seemed to be some prescience to the current for the water stirred and it stirred something within me.
A shiver fell from my lips as I looked at Taka. It was all too strange to say, and yet there could be nothing stranger than this place. Taka’s eyes glowed in anticipation.
“The waves reached for me—it was such a pleasant touch, at first, as though the sea were tasting me. A gentle breeze blew in from the windows and kissed the drops from my skin, brushing my hair with its breath. Then the sea became more urgent, consuming, drinking me into the waves as the wind became raging, ravishing me with its breath.
“I tumbled into the ocean, welling within the museum walls until I was drowning, devoured, drifting toward that gilded ceiling with marble statues bobbing around me. I might have been dying, but it was all so beautiful, as though I were swimming amidst the stars. Held by the sky. The scroll wrapped around my body like ribbons of silk as I captured my last breath, I reached out my hand…”
Taka looked at me as if I was entranced, and perhaps I was. For I left the rest of it unsaid. That a canoe drifted through that raging sea. That an oar rowed steadily through it. That a voice called out in the wind. That it was his hand I reached for.
I held my breath, a moment of suspended magic in which I wondered whether any of it could be real. We had drifted closer to one another, our kimonos tangling as they drifted in the water. Then Taka exhaled and, surprised by a sudden lust of the wind, the tree lost sight of its petals and they went skittering about like ancient nymphs awakened from their slumber. I could almost hear them murmur sweet words in our ears, their prayers happily sung into the silence as they draped us with their devotion.
We blinked our eyes in bewilderment as the water became blanketed with upside-down buttercups. I looked up at the last drop of sunlight, felt it scatter rainbows in my hair. The moon was drawing ever nearer and I was struck with the thought that it had been a much shorter day than I had anticipated. Was it already nightfall? What was this place?
It was only then that I realized the waterfall wasn’t falling downward but upward. When I looked back at Taka I realized he still held my eyes.
“The immortals once asked me to find the lost scroll of Fanghu,” he said, almost in a whisper. “And the person who stole it so many years ago.
“I have been searching for you for centuries.”
After making some edits last week, this chapter is my attempt at pointing it back in the right direction, but I would really love your feedback. How do you feel about the story so far? Is it the right balance between a beautiful world and a beautiful story? Can you tell Taka is the love interest? Is there enough intrigue at the end of each chapter???
Any and all feedback is welcome as I continue serializing my utopian novel but with a new strategy—to spend time on it every weekday and to publish the chapters here as I finish them (hopefully every week but with the space to miss deadlines if I need to) and getting your feedback as I continue refining the manuscript as I go!
Thank you for all of your feedback when I asked for it on notes!
As for the “water filling the room” metaphor—I’ve used that in both of my books. In Oblivion, the flood washes away the present and allows us to imagine the future (a societal washing away). In Obscurity, the flood washes away who Madame St. Vincent was before, to give rise to the woman she will become now (a personal washing away).
In both cases, this is also me being obsessed with Harry Styles’ music video for Falling. So aesthetically (and metaphorically) beautiful!
Thank you so much for reading, and for your feedback!